On Sunday I saw The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies with my mum and my gran and so comes to an end another Middle Earth trilogy. I really liked The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, in fact I liked it a lot more than I was expecting to as I’d previously been left feeling a bit “meh” about the previous two films. So the end of The Hobbit trilogy got me thinking about my relationship with the Middle Earth films and why I love The Lord of the Rings but (on the whole) find The Hobbit just alright.
First a bit of a history lesson about me and how I grew up watching The Lord of the Rings.
The Fellowship of the Ring was released when I was just ten years old and I don’t know why ten-year-old me wanted to see it really. I had never read the books and hadn’t even heard of them before the film was released but I had read other fantasy books so was interested in the genre. I went to the cinema with my mum and gran on Christmas Eve to watch it and while I do remember clinging to my mum’s arm when Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin were being chased by the Nazgûl (the sounds they made really scared me) and during the battle in the Mines of Moria (seriously, the cave troll was terrifying) I loved it. Merry and Pippin made me laugh, Arwen was awesome and Aragorn was instantly my favourite character. In fact all the characters were cool and (if they didn’t have their moment in the first film) went on to have the time to shine throughout the trilogy.
I’ve always loved The Lord of the Rings movies and have rewatched them many, many times over the past thirteen years – in fact I’m currently in the middle of watching the entire extended today.
So if I loved The Lord of the Rings so much why am I almost indifferent towards The Hobbit trilogy? They have the same director in Peter Jackson, pretty much the exact same scriptwriting team, the same filming location and no doubt so many of the same behind-the-scenes crew from the special effects to the costumes.
I think it can probably be broken down into five things.
My age. I watched each Lord of the Rings film for the first time when I was ten, eleven and twelve so the trilogy was a big part of my childhood and probably helped shape some of my interests both in terms of genre and in characters and narrative. I’ve seen The Hobbit films at ages 21, 22 and 23 and have studied film and am probably a bit more critical of what I watch because of it. I still like fantasy a lot and still read books and watch films in that genre but maybe I’m not so easily impressed – or maybe there’s heavy nostalgia value attached to The Lord of the Rings so it can do no wrong in my eyes.
Martin Freeman. I’m not a huge fan of his so was never over keen about him leading a Middle Earth film franchise. Perhaps that’s why I liked The Battle of the Five Armies so much – it spent more time with other characters compared to him.
The CGI. No doubt there’s a lot of special effects in The Lord of the Rings trilogy – some have stood up to the test of time while some haven’t (Legolas sometimes look more like a video game character when he’s jumping around killing things than he does Orlando Bloom) – characters like orcs and Uruk-hai are real people with fantastic makeup so (obviously) look real and a proper part of the film when they interact with the other characters. In The Hobbit all the orcs look computer generated (Azog especially so) and there’s something not as scary about a CGI monster. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good CGI but I fear it won’t age well at all.
I don’t feel as if I know the characters of The Hobbit trilogy that well at all. Now this may be because I’ve rewatched The Lord of the Rings so many times compared to the one time I’ve seen each Hobbit film or it could be because there’s twelve dwarves with similar sounding names that don’t have their own time to shine and are not always easy to tell apart. In fact the only ones I could easily recognise and name are Thorin, Fili, Kili and Bofur – Bofur was only because he was played by James Nesbitt, a British actor who I like a lot.
The fact that splitting one book into three very long films seemed a tad unnecessary. I’ve read The Hobbit, probably close to ten years ago so I can’t remember that much of it but I still don’t understand how a 300 page book can be translated into almost eight hours of films. It just seems excessive and perhaps I would have enjoyed the Hobbit films if they were one film that was concise and stripped of unnecessarily padding.
So that’s why I think I might not like The Hobbit trilogy as much as The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I’ve always been a bit let down by The Hobbit trilogy, which is a shame but luckily it hasn’t put a downer on my enjoyment of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Maybe when I can marathon The Hobbit trilogy I’ll feel differently but at the moment I can’t say I’m a fan like Ii can about The Lord of the Rings.